Great Immigration Debate

Two days ago, there was an article about Michelle Obama speaking to a group of second graders entitled: Little Girl Who Challenged First Lady Is Right: Obama Is Deporting More Immigrants Than Ever.

The little girl asked why Obama is deporting so many immigrants to which Mrs. Obama responded that people need papers and we have to work on a solution.  The little girl responded very innocently “My mom doesn’t have any papers.”

The video is here:

In the Huffington Post article, Dan Froomkin says that this little girl “became the face of the immigration debate.”  I’m not sure if that will become true but more likely it is just a small blip in this national debate.

What I believe it does do however, is give people a glimpse of what the actual consequences are of supporting the knee jerk deportation reactions that many on the extreme right may feel.  It puts a very real and human face on a debate that is currently employing only legal logic.

On the extreme Right, they say that those without the necessary papers should be deported straightaway.  These people develop their opinions by watching Fox news and listening to other commentators such as Limbaugh, Beck and Palin and on the surface it does make sense.

However, I’m more than certain these people really do not have any personal contact with these immigrants.  In other words, they simply don’t know any.  To generalize, I would say that the majority are middle aged, white, live in not-so-diverse neighborhoods and really haven’t been exposed to any other cultures other than their own.

What this does is create a very narrow mindset in which the logic “No papers = deportation” and I’m sure they cannot understand why others might argue with them.  I also believe that the majority of the people are not “racist” as many on the left may claim, they simply think the law should be followed!

But, let us have a look at why these people are here in the first place.  If we look back to the 1995 – 2002 period the economy was booming.  The fact is the USA needed the labor and was willing to look the other way in terms of legal status so long as houses were being built, manufacturers had workers and the economy kept on track.

In order to not seem as a “lefty liberal” I’ll argue this point from my Republican side circa 2000 when I was still in business school.  I supported George W at that time and during his term he advocated the mantra “Jobs Americans do not want to do.”  Current Republicans are saying that the Arizona Law is no different from the Federal Law and I believe they are correct.  However, the Republicans under George W and the business community decided not to enforce the immigration law because the labor was needed.

Therefore, there was a mass migration from Mexico to the United States as word got around that there was money to be made.  Now that times are tough the party has turned on these immigrants and now wants them to go back to Mexico!

It is simply unfair for people to be treated in the fashion and blindly looking at the law as an excuse to deport people when they were previously welcomed is wrong.  Further, what the Right is not reporting is that the Obama administration is deporting more people than the Bush administration ever did but the Right accuses Obama of sanctioning illegal immigration!

All that aside, let’s return to this little girl and her innocent statement that her mom doesn’t have any papers.  Without getting all “touchy-feely” about the matter, I think a lot of folk’s hearts might be softened over this event.  Instead of simply following Fox news and agreeing with their closed circle of friends and neighbors they will get a glimpse of the very human consequences of the deportation policy.  Instead of watching an angry Sean Hannity employ his narrow logic, we see a very innocent little girl express her real fear of  having the police come to her house, have her pack her bags and go to a country she does not remember.

In that a great majority of folks that agree with the deportation policy are also Christians, it is my hope that their Christian values will overcome all the political posturing and flawed laws that are on the books.  If we ask ourselves truly “What would Jesus do?” I think many of us will already know the answer and have to reflect pretty deeply to overcome previously held opinions.

This does not mean we cannot secure our borders or alleviate some of their other very reasonable concerns.  As it stands now, our immigration procedures are VERY cumbersome and it was simply easier to skirt the process when there was money to be made.  Instead, both political parties need to work on perhaps a guest worker program where the visas are easier to obtain but last a short amount of time.  Then there would be the issue of actually enforcing these visas or create some way for them to be renewed which are not burdensome to the employers and employees.

Currently, the USA already has millions of immigrants in the country which came during the economic boom period for reasons previously described.  We have to come up with an honest solution which is good for both these immigrants and the USA.  Simply automatically deporting them is not a reasonable solution especially when we see them as actual families which this innocent little girl has shown.

By Mateo de Colón

Global Citizen! こんにちは!僕の名前はマットです. Es decir soy Mateo. Aussi, je m'appelle Mathieu. Likes: Languages, Cultures, Computers, History, being Alive! (^.^)/


  1. You can put a very real and human face on any debate that and employing legal logic is logically the only way to enforce legal laws.

    I would not have ever imagined myself as a member of the extreme right, however after the continued onslaught by our current idiot-in-charge and his rubber-stamping congress – that phrase no longer bothers me. Call me radical, call me terrorist, call me a racist, it by calling me names helps you to sleep better at night or gets you through your hectic day, call me what you will. However when it comes to undermining my country through nothing but sheer stupidity and it riles my dandruff.

    We have absolute morons running this country. We have one of the best immigration laws in the world yet the liberals and now the world would compare us to N. Korea. At least have the courage to say – hell we do not want any borders, we are alright with anyone coming into the country at any time without papers. We are all for giving them entitlements at the expense of starving ourselves, but do not try to hide behind some ‘holier-than-thou’ crap while blaming the people who actually believe in the rule of law.

  2. It’s an interesting point. Honestly I’ve got no issue with folks competing with our citizenry for jobs. What I do have an issue with is doing it illegally. In essence that gets around the (absolutely stupid) laws surrounding minimum wage. That law sets an unlevel playing field. I think we’ve got a fairly easy solution at hand: eliminate minimum wage, issue work visas with some amount of liberality, and absolutely positively refuse any social services for someone who’s entered the country illegally. That levels the playing field in terms of competition for jobs, helps to stem some of the tide of artificial inflation that minimum wage laws create, helps remove some of the costs associated with paying for services for those who don’t pay taxes (yes, I know that they’d have to pay sales tax but that’s simply not enough), and it’d remove the pressure for folks to come over illegally.

    Also, I must admit I like the use, by the left, of papers and the subtle hint at Nazism that it kicks out there (for those who aren’t outright saying it). Honestly, there’s simply no comparison. None at all.

  3. I’d have to say that I’m not a big fan of emotions running the agenda. Immigration has to by rules that are consistent and transparent. What happened in the Bush-era was therefore hypocritical and should be stopped. Arguing that the size of brown eyes should take precedent over rationality is a recipe for disaster.
    What Obama is trying to do, I have no idea.
    And what would Jesus do? Well, first of all he stayed out of politics. Secondly, he never made decisions on behalf of others and then asked them to finance it.
    Controlling immigration is especially prescient when living in a Scandinavian welfare country. This is a point that decision makers in Sweden have not yet realized. Denmark has been there for a decade and Norway is coming swiftly along.
    Still, the parties that look set to form the next government propose to allow asylum seekers to live by themselves and have jobs after six months of waiting. Normally asylum seekers are housed in camps while their cases are being evaluated. If they are refused asylum they are asked to leave. In practicality it is almost impossible to deport them against their will. So they just sit there until they give up from exhaustion. Some do so for upwards of a decade.
    Allowing them work would completely eliminate the idea that a country should be able to decide who gets to become a citizen, collect pensions, and receive medical services, which are by and large all free of charges here. By free I mean funded by tax-payers. Something that 3rd world immigrants tend not to become for a couple generations at least.

  4. I like how the above three comments came from three different viewpoints entirely! I’ll just touch on those quickly then explain my viewpoint.

    1. dl211 – Like he says “I would not have ever imagined myself as a member of the extreme right.” I think a lot of folks were more centrist before but in the last decade a lot of big things have been happening and with the rise of the talking heads on TV (both right and left) folks on both sides got pushed to the extremes.
    I would highly doubt that you are actually racist or any of those other things. And no, the USA isn’t North Korea or anything else. From your viewpoint – Follow the law, not fair to pay for those that do not put into the system.
    – I think this makes sense but the situation is more complicated in that there are millions already here. If the law were put into force then these people would have to go to detention camps and await trains to deport them back to Mexico. (Then we would start looking like North Korea) I would be more in favor of acknowledging that the previous policy wasn’t enforced, give the people a pass and get an enforced guest worker program in place. I think this is an acceptable compromise because actually I would be in favor of no borders. 🙂

    2.) Ron – I like the point about competition with our citizenry. Arguing from my open market capitalist, I say the more competition the better. I think some on the right are hypocritical arguing for openness, less governmental interference while at the same time wanting the government to protect them from competition. Understand your point about the fairness of it all concerning paying for social services for illegals. BUT, for me, I wouldn’t be able to deny health services or schooling for them. The Gov’t takes a lot of my money in taxes and I think they waste most of it. If I could choose, I would say please use my money for the benefit of these people cause frankly, I like them. Then, create a way for them (amnesty) to become citizens and start paying into the system. But, so as not to cause an unsustainable flood, the borders would have to be better protected but I think a good chunk could be helped by implementing a better visa program.

    3. Jonas – I understand that Denmark has their own immigration problem and your government does pay a lot more in social services which causes a big drain if people are not paying into the system. I don’t know enough about why they come to Denmark and all the factors to really comment. I already wrote a previous post about my overall feelings concerning the Mexicans and have explained in this post why so many are already here. I think the USA would be a ROCKSTAR by giving amnesty as it was the USA that created the problem (looking the other way on their own immigration policy for short term economic benefit).

    If amnesty was given I think it would paint the USA as really a “good country” in that it takes responsibility for what it helped create but at the same time get moving on immigration reform and the guest worker program. I think we can have our cake and eat it too but if the choice is between deport everyone and amnesty I’m definitely going with amnesty with the caveat that the USA fix the problem going forward and get guest worker visas in place.

    4. MY VIEW
    – I think I set out some good compromises in my responses and would be willing to support these compromises if our political parties would make them a reality. But, if I am not compromising then here is my real view (and yes, I know there would be a hell of a lot of details to be worked out so lets just call this a big picture vision)

    – Open the border, create a European style block for North America including Canada, USA and Mexico. I think there are some efficiencies to be obtained here. Here are the roles

    1. USA – The driver politically and economically
    2. Mexico – Instead of sending our factories to China, send them to Mexico. We can produce things cheaply down there while providing jobs which would stem the tide of so many moving up here. Not sure if this is realistic because China is pretty cheap to produce but why not take a look? Less transportation costs and with no tariffs perhaps the USA could even become an export country.
    3. Canada – Not sure how this would really help economically but we are similar enough I don’t think most people would even notice. Heck, Canada might have some arguments about integrating with the USA!! 🙂

    – Erase the mindset of us vs. them. The USA is a collection of states that pulled together to create a nation. Why can’t we do this again and become even larger? The goal is to become bigger, more efficient, more powerful, in all cases so why are we fighting to keep things the status quo?

    – I think the biggest stumbling block is the cultural divide between Latinos and White folks. As we look towards the future, the young have more interactions with foreigners in the schools and people start to mesh. I think over time these differences will abate and the young will have less of an “us and them” mentality.

    – The USA and Mexico are young countries. We do not have the historical baggage Europe does but Europe was able to pull together into the European Union. Why can the USA not do the same? Why has the debate stalled on this? The business leaders (not even the “loony left”) pushed through NAFTA and why are we not even talking about going even farther?

  5. Matt – your point regarding wasted tax money is interesting. The problem with that point is that the waste won’t go away. All that we’d end up doing by continuing to pay for more health and education services for non-citizens is spending more money. Paying for them doesn’t reduce the amount of waste. If it did and you could clearly demonstrate that paying for illegals led directly to less government waste and lower taxes I’d get in that line. The problem is that you can’t.

    Considering that I believe the Federal government has absolutely no position providing much more than defense, common currency, overarching laws that make commerce easier, and a highway system there’s simply no way they should be involved in healthcare at all – for citizens or non-citizens. But, if we’re going to be forced to pay for those that elect to not pay for themselves let’s at least limit it to those that pay taxes.

  6. @Matt
    So you wish for open borders but only so long as it doesn’t cause a flood? You want everyone entering the country to be given a visa but you still want to ‘enforce it’. If everyone gets one without any conditions and there are no borders, are you sure that is possible?
    Immigrants make up about ¼ of inhabitants in Copenhagen. Each year about 3/4 of those put before a judge in Copenhagen are immigrants. More immigration and open borders is hardly what my country needs. A large part of those put before a judge are Eastern Europeans. EU has not made expansion for the sake of expansion work. A major motivation driving EU forwards towards, among other goals: giving membership-status to Turkey, is the desire to be seen as good. I cannot stress how much I see that as naivety bordering on outright suicidal tendencies.
    Back to Denmark: Each year the number of immigrants or their descendants that are sentenced for one crime or another runs up in numbers that are roughly 1/4 of the total number of immigrants and their descendants living here. Each year!
    Looking at violence related crimes only, compared to the entire population, immigrants of non-Western origin or their descendants have an index of 261. Compare that to index 89 for persons of Danish descent.
    Things are not peachy peachy here and open borders is not an answer.
    I’m sorry I only have Danish sources for this. All of the numbers are, however, based on our National Statistics Office. The last two links are straight to their homepage.

  7. Jonas,

    That’s a very interesting stat you’ve dug up. I wonder if one could look towards something like that to help explain why the US generally appears to be more violent than other nations. No doubt there are many influencing factors but moving from a homogeneous to heterogeneous population seems to be linked to increases in the rate of crime. I’m not saying that correlation = causation here, but there seems to be a link. Makes one wonder what the underlying causes might be.

  8. @Ron ap Rhys
    Thanks. I wouldn’t want to speculate on the causes either. The only contribution from social sciences that I know of is the well-documented fact that trust between people decreases when diversity increases. A decrease in trust can(!) be replaced by more formal contractual forms of relationships and can(!) lead to more litigiousness. Economically speaking, a lack of trust among parties increases external expenses and slows down progression.

    Swedish media and policy-makers are very averse to writing anything about ethnicity without a multitude of excuses. A couple of days ago a letter to the editor of a Danish daily did a good job of putting together numbers that I have seen in other places at other times as well. I don’t have time to track it all down so I’m just going to link to him in case any Scandinavians pop by here.

    Sweden has about 9 million inhabitants and Denmark about 6.5 million. Ethnicity is difficult to measure and the two statistics offices do not agree on who to include in what categories. Suffice to say that Sweden has a much larger immigrant-to-native-Swede population rate.
    In 2009 there were about 500 rape charges filed with the police in Denmark. Sweden had almost 6,000.
    There were about 17,000 violence-related crimes in Denmark in 2009. Sweden had more than 80,000.

    An English language Swedish newspaper from 2005 had this to say about crime and ethnicity:
    “One quarter (of the almost 1,520,000 offences registered during the period covered by the study) were committed by people born overseas, while almost 20 percent were committed by those born in Sweden to one or two parents born abroad.

    Among foreigners suspected of offences, those from North Africa and Western Asia were overrepresented.”

    With an immigrant population of perhaps 15% (+-5% depending on how you count. Denmark includes more generations in the number than the Swedes do), 45 % of crimes in Sweden are committed by foreigners or their first generation of children born in Sweden.

    Immigrants from “North Africa and Western Asia” and the Somalis(!) also stand out negatively in Denmark.

  9. Amigos,

    Nice debate! For all the well thought out reasons and arguments presented, I stick to my opinion. My reasons for doing so are related to my experience living in other countries and basic joy of people learning to get along and cultures becoming mixed.

    I would like to see a day when people are not constrained by nationalities, borders, language or anything else. I know we are far from that day and there are many issues to be worked out. I also realize some people prefer not to mix and that is ok too.

    There are legal issues, financial issues, racial issues, cultural issues and many many others which make progress slow. Perhaps 100 years from now Mexico will become a major force and the immigration argument will be reversed? In any case, I think it would be a nice world if we could all travel freely anywhere we would like to go and the various impediments simply did not exist.

    Yes, this is all big picture, perhaps even fantasy ideas but this is how I choose to view my world and I’m sticking to it.

  10. Matt – I don’t think the issues relates to the freedom of travel so much as it does to the ability to interact appropriately. Foreigners are almost always easy marks simply because they’re going to be leaving, likely have excess cash, don’t know the lay of the land and can get out of more controlled areas, and likely won’t prosecute (simply because they’re leaving soon). Cultural differences also play a huge role, here. When you, or even I, travel to a different country we’re cognizant of the cultural differences and attempt to adapt. That’s a polite thing to do and is generally appreciated by the locals. However, that favor isn’t being returned by the immigrant populations – especially for the stats that Jonas is pointing out. We also end up with large groups of immigrants, especially in European nations, that are tax-payer supported without bringing in income, tax revenue, or the like to their host countries. See France as a prime example of this. In the States it’s a bit better but working towards that model, though a good portion of the immigrant population here is actually working some sort of job, just under the table.

    I go back to my original point – set things up so there’s an easy way for immigrants to get in and work jobs. If they work, they can stay. If they don’t, no services whatsoever.

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